In Praise of Badass Super Mamas (Summer 2008)

From the Summer 2008 issue of Ms. magazine:

The summer of 1973 was the season of the supermama: kickass Black women such as Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson, who starred in big-screen “Blaxploitation” action films.

The cultural nostalgia for Blaxploitation has never really died. And at the movies in recent years, Black women continue to be underrepresented among the latest kick-butt heroes. Yet my hope for new supermamas survives. The screen and action cinema not only have room for Black women—but need them.

(For more iconic, ground-breaking stories like this, pre-order 
50 YEARS OF Ms.: THE BEST OF THE PATHFINDING MAGAZINE THAT IGNITED A REVOLUTION (Alfred A. Knopf)—a collection of the most audacious, norm-breaking coverage Ms. has published.)

Ms. Global: Drought in Somalia; Afghan Women Face More Restrictions; Burundi Sees Spike in Femicides; the Crackdown on Egypt’s Queer Community

The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.

This week: News from Somalia, Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Germany, and more.

Like Prince Harry, Survivors of Family Sexual Assault Know What It’s Like to Cope With Family After Public Truth-Telling

In his new book Spare, Prince Harry outlines the trauma he experienced as a child after Princess Diana’s death, as well as the whitewashing and abuse he and his wife, Meghan Markle, suffered at the hands of both the press and his royal family. As a survivor of sexual violence, I recognize Harry’s plight and also the incredibly painful journey of losing relatives because of truth-telling in an effort to be whole again.

How Johnny Depp Turned Abuse Allegations Into a Comeback

By 2018, Johnny Depp was bordering on irrelevancy—but he soon gained a tremendous fandom as a public trial unfolded, prompted by abuse allegations from his ex-wife Amber Heard. In December, Heard announced she would no longer be moving forward with her appeal because “cannot afford to risk an impossible bill—one that is not just financial, but also psychological, physical and emotional.”

Depp has paved a new path for accused men in search of cultural capital—and accomplished the very thing women throughout the ages have been baselessly accused of: leveraging victimhood to gain status. Depp, whose career was flailing, became not just a rallying cry for men’s rights and the supposed victimhood of being a successful, wealthy, white man in a changing world, but a newly hot commodity in Hollywood once again with a thriving fan base.

I’m Sounding the Alarm Now About Media’s Response to Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is a time-honored but impossible set-up. Women artists have experienced especially harsh post-show takes. So what will it be in Rihanna’s case?

There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on her performance post-baby, her first live appearance since 2018. The gendered expectations and sexist labeling of women in music vary by individual, and racism has a significant impact in certain cases. But this abuse in all cases works to enforce norms of behavior expected of women.

Perhaps if we recognize the cycle, we might better tune out the toxic takes to come.

Rest in Power: Barbara Walters—Legend, Inspiration and Friend

The death of Barbara Walters is such a loss. We were professional colleagues and towards the end of our sometimes overlapping journeys as women in media, we became friends … not the kind of ‘share everything with’ friend, but a friendship based on the recognition that we had faced similar challenges and learned along the way the importance of showing up for other women.

I never aspired to ‘be’ Barbara, but like every woman in media then and now, I benefited from the battles she took on, the challenges she met and overcame, and the sacrifices she made to do the work she loved. I miss her on television and in my world.